Trump's travel ban blocks Afghanistan's all-girl robotics from attending STEM competition

The United States denied travel visas for six teenage girls from Afghanistan looking to attend an global robotics competition in Washington, D.C this month. That robot will be allowed to compete, but after having to travel 500 miles from their homes in Herat to Kabul for their visa interviews only to be denied entry into the country, the girls will be forced to watch via video conferencing. Other times it's hard for them to be taken seriously.

On their competition page, the teen girls wrote: 'We want to make a difference, and most breakthroughs in science, technology, and other industries normally start with the dream of a child to do something great.

An all-female team from Afghanistan hoping to take part in an worldwide robotics competition has been denied entry visas to the U.S. Considering that the girls literally risked their lives in order to apply for a travel visa and still got rejected, such a reaction was completely understandable.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court recently reinstated parts of President Trump's travel ban, which affects immigration coming from six majority-Muslim countries, the visa denial wasn't related - Afghanistan isn't on Trump's list.

Along with Afghanistan, the west African team from Gambia was denied visas as well, according to Forbes. It may be due to the overall difficulty of securing a visa in Afghanistan.

The all-girl team had been put together by Roya Mahboob, Afghanistan's first female technology boss.

"I can't tell you why exactly [their applications were denied], but I do know that a fair opportunity was given by the US State Department and embassy", said Joe Sestak, a former congressman and president of FIRST Global. "We want to show the world we can do it, we just need a chance", she said, speaking through a Persian translator. The materials other teams used as the basis for their robots were held up by United States customs, so the Afghan girls practiced building home-made motorized cars out of cardboard and sticky tape. The Free Form hit show, The Fosters, chronicled some of the discrimination all girls robotics teams face in their episode "Girl Code".

When the girls first heard the bad news about their visas, however, Mahboob said they were "crying all day".

She told Forbes: "It's a very important message for our people". By contrast, 780 of the visas were issued for visitors from Iraq, and 4,067 from Pakistan, which neighbors Afghanistan. "They're young and they were very upset". "Robotics is very, very new in Afghanistan", she told Forbes.

  • Rogelio Becker